Legal Updates

 Corporate and M&AAugust 27, 2021

Government approval of Legislation to Establish Corporate Enforcement Authority

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For further information on any of the issues discussed in this publication please contact the related contact(s) on this page.

The Government has approved the publication of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021. This will allow a transition of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into an independent statutory agency. This agency will also be equipped with additional resources in order to investigate and prosecute white collar crime.

The current Director of Corporate Enforcement, Ian Drennan described the approval of this legislation as a watershed moment in Ireland’s approach towards economic and white collar crime:

With enhanced autonomy and significantly increased levels of investigative assets - including additional legal and digital forensics professionals and seconded members of An Garda Síochána - the Corporate Enforcement Authority will assume the ODCE’s current caseload and will, I anticipate, continue to build on the ODCE’s forensic and robust approach towards tackling serious breaches of company law and associated wrongdoing in both civil and criminal realms."

Compared to the ODCE, this new statutory agency will gain additional investigative powers in the areas of surveillance, search warrants and the participation by civilian investigators in suspect interviews, arising from the recommendations of the Hamilton Review Group. Since the introduction of measures to strengthen Ireland’s regulatory, economic and corporate framework in 2017, there has been a movement towards improving legislation in this area as well as countering money laundering and corruption in the Irish market. The new functions of the Corporate Enforcement Authority include prosecuting summary offences, encouraging compliance with companies’ legislation, supervising liquidators and receivers and investigating any suspected offences and non-compliance under the Companies Act 2014. In preparation for its establishment, the budget of the ODCE has been increased by circa €1 million and 14 additional civil servants have been approved to be assigned to the Authority in order to undertake its new functions.

The Bill will also aim to address any issues or anomalies within the Companies Act 2014 (for example, amendments to the Act in relation to shares and share capital, corporate governance, restriction of directors and other miscellaneous matters), and to address the recommendations made in the Company Law Review Group in its 2017 report. The Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 will be introduced to the House of Oireachtas this coming September, so it is yet to be seen how these issues will be addressed within the Bill.

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